Healthy smile, healthy you: A guide to dental hygiene

Oral health involves much more than just minty, white toothpaste

Oral health involves much more than just minty, white toothpaste. DESIGN: TALHA KHAN

It is often said that wearing a big smile is your best accessory. Not only is smiling an effortless and inexpensive way to transform your appearance, it is also an expression of joy from one person to another that transcends all language barriers. A smile can speak volumes about one’s feelings, without them having to say a word.

But in order to maintain its glory, one must realise that their smile needs some care first. Unfortunately, most of us find it difficult to simply brush our teeth twice a day, let alone floss or visit the dentist regularly. Over the past few years, awareness regarding dental health has made people much more conscious of their smiles but they still have a long way to go before they know the right way to keep their mouths clean. Here are some common myths regarding oral hygiene — categorised into three groups — that most of us wrongly believe in. Overcoming these will take you one step closer to a healthier smile and a healthier you.

When simply brushing twice a day is not enough

While it is indeed a great thing if you are committed to the ‘twice a day, every day’ rule, brushing alone cannot ensure oral hygiene no matter how fancy your brush and toothpaste might be. In fact, most of us probably aren’t even brushing properly! Most dentists recommend holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to your gums and moving it back and forth in short strokes for effective cleaning. You must also cover the inner, chewing areas of your mouth and not just the outer surfaces to eliminate all germs and food particles. Make sure the head of your brush isn’t too large and the bristles aren’t too hard lest they damage the gums. On average, a proper brushing session should take about three to four minutes, enough to spur blood circulation throughout the mouth.

Nonetheless, it is best to compliment your brushing routine with professional cleaning and scaling for the best results. Scaling refers to the dental process whereby dentists remove tartar, calculus and food debris from around your teeth and below the gum level.

Sadly, many people are unaware of scaling and often confuse it with whitening. In reality, whitening is an aesthetic procedure that brightens the teeth with special bleaching agents while scaling is used to prevent or treat oral conditions like gingivitis or periodontitis. It is also believed that scaling is harmful to the tooth enamel but dentists recommend it every three to four months for people with poor oral hygiene as it can clean places inaccessible to even the finest of toothbrushes.

Avoiding scaling allows unwanted materials to accumulate on and around the teeth and gums and can lead to bleeding, swelling, redness, pain, tender gums, bad breath, tooth mobility and even the loss of teeth. Therefore, it is important for you to invest in at least two scaling sessions a year to maintain a healthy mouth.

Extractions – A dental nightmare or blessing in disguise?

Extraction refers to the removal of unwanted/damaged teeth, the need for which is indicated when the tooth cannot be saved via restorative treatments. You may also need an extraction to prevent crowding or impaction in the jaw.

Many dentists in Pakistan have to face an onslaught of baseless accusations whenever they prescribe an extraction, especially regarding the connection between our teeth and eyes. Many patients wrongly believe that extractions cause partial or complete visual impairment and therefore, would rather continue in pain than have a problematic tooth removed. On the contrary, the dental and optic nerves follow separate pathways and an extraction cannot affect vision in any way.

Of course, every dentist’s top priority is to save the tooth via root canals, fillings or dental crowns, but at times, extraction might be the best way forward. A few moments of pain can spare one from a variety of dental troubles and one can also see a prosthodontic for replacement options like dentures, bridges and implants. Bear in mind that an empty dental socket can lead to resorption of the surrounding bone, a compromised bite and gradual misalignment of adjacent teeth so it is important to revisit your doctor if you have had an extraction before.

Go the extra mile for a beautiful smile 

Even though it might seem tedious and bothersome, it is crucial for you to make up a daily dental regime to keep your mouth in check. Brushing must be followed by flossing and perhaps a mouthwash to keep your breath fresh. The correct way to floss is to secure the thread tightly between your index fingers and slide is slowly between the teeth, right down to gum level. All remaining particles or calculus lodged in there will surface with the thread when it is removed.

Although we tend to be complacent about it, our diets plays an important role in our overall dental health as acidic foods and beverages breed bacteria and reduce the pH value of the mouth. For example, people with proper water intake tend to have better oral hygiene as water encourages the production of saliva — the natural cleanser of the mouth. Foods rich in saturated sugars, such as chocolate or soft drinks, also render the teeth vulnerable to cavities and tooth aches. Similarly, habits like smoking and drinking can also impact the mouth adversely. In fact, their impact isn’t restricted to bad teeth or dental infections alone — it might be a precursor for mouth and neck cancer as well! Sound, personal hygiene habits, coupled with regular visits to your dentist can save one from having to worry about dental problems. and their smile losing its charm.

Brushing in the morning vs brushing at night 

Contrary to popular belief, brushing at night is much more important and beneficial to the human mouth than in the morning. This is because at night, our mouth remains closed the entire time that we are asleep, giving bacteria and other harmful microorganisms the opportunity to initiate cavities or decay. Brushing in the morning simply eliminates bad breath while night-time dental rituals ward off all potential problems.

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, February 1st, 2015.


Barbara Taušová | 8 years ago | Reply

I am always happy to see these guides. In general, people just don't know how to do good dental hygiene. "A dental hygienist should be seen twice a year for dental preventive care. The main reason is that the efficacy of tooth cleaning is not high, especially for the back teeth, even when using interdental brushes and dental floss."

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